Wake County Sheriff's Office K9 shot, killed in line of duty by Knightdale officer

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Saturday, May 27, 2023 3:18AM
Wake County Sheriff's Office K9 shot, killed in line of duty
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K9 Santos joined the Wake County Sheriff's Office in 2016.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County's longest-serving K9 officer was killed in the line of duty early Friday morning.

K9 Santos and his handler were called to help Knightdale police with a suspect search near North Smithfield Road around 12:30 a.m., according to the sheriff's office. Knightdale police chief Lawrence Capps said the suspect, Ravon Williams, 21, and a passenger were in a car when Williams jumped out of the car and ran into the woods after a traffic stop.

Chief Capps said one of the police department's officers unintentionally fired his weapon and shot the deputy's K9 as they were tracking the suspect.

Santos was rushed to the emergency clinic at N.C. State University's Veterinary Hospital, where he died.

The officer involved in the shooting has been in law enforcement for 18 months and is on leave pending an internal investigation.

The sheriff's office said Santos was skilled in tracking and protecting his handler with a fierce determination.

"We are truly heartbroken over this tragedy," said Chief Capps. "All law enforcement officers understand the strong and undeniably special bond that exists between handlers and their K9 partners. The involved officer is very distraught, so I can only imagine the deep swell of grief our friends in the sheriff's office must be feeling. We extended our sincerest apologies and deepest sympathies."

Santos was a German Shepherd that joined the Wake County Sheriff's Office in 2016, making him the longest-serving K9.

"The remorse and the level of grief that is felt by our officers and by our deputies is real, it is palpable. There is no playbook for something exactly like this," Chief Capps said.

The Knightdale Police Department has launched an internal affairs investigation into the officer's actions.

"Anytime we conduct an internal review, one of the things that we look at are not only policy violations, any sort of training failures, but we're examining that incident to determine whether there may be any sort of criminal element associated with it." Chief Capps said.

Commission Chair Shinica Thomas released this statement after the news of K9 Deputy Santos' passing: "On behalf of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Wake County Sheriff's Office at the passing of Canine Deputy Santos this morning in the line of duty. He was so much more than a dog; he was the Sheriff's Office's longest-serving K9 officer, a beloved partner to his handler, and a dedicated member of the canine unit who trained for and assisted with search operations. Our hearts go out to the law enforcement community today, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in the days ahead as they grieve this tragic loss."

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